Monday, August 15, 2011

Tiruchirappalli To Madurai: Aboard India's Modes of Transport

It seemed barely roadworthy. Had I not lived in the Philippines I would have felt uncomfortable in that rusty, rickety bus. Shervin and I sat at the very front, the unsafest seat (think head-on collision), but the one that offers the same unobstructed view of the road as that of the driver's.

Through the window we waved farewell to Harrish and Harry, who waved back as they walked away, leaving us in the hands of the bus conductor whom they gave specific instructions to regarding our destination.

Bull on wheels. Our bus to Madurai, stationed at Trichy's Central Bus Stand,.

Such nice blokes those two. Earlier that afternoon, they picked us up from Tiruchirapalli Airport, where we met in person for the first time. Weeks prior that day, Shervin announced on his programming tutorial site about our trip in India. Though a lot of his student followers responded and offered to show us around, only Harrish and Harry actually did so because it happened to be uni exams week. We were happy nonetheless, to be welcomed by them upon arrival, rather than an overcharging cab driver.

We were warned that the ride (fare only 49 INR!) might take five hours instead of three because of terrible traffic and the gazillions of stops to pick up and drop off passengers. The trip was a bit anticlimactic, which worked out well for us since we've been traveling for 24 hours already (Philippines-Singapore-Malaysia-India).

The bus never became packed (there are heaps of buses servicing the Tiruchirappalli-Madurai route), no quirky mishaps to speak of, and the landscape parallel to the highway reminded me of the view from the Philippines' SCTEX. Nothing too uh-mazing. Well, except the occasional crossing of cows freely wandering.

After three hours and thirty minutes of uneventful ride, we parked at a major bus station where everyone disembarked. The conductor pointed to the ground and said "Madurai". Had he not mentioned the place I would have thought he was referring to his shoes.

First of only two tuktuk rides during our 6-day Tamil Nadu trip.

We bobbled our heads in understanding and stepped off the bus, relieved that we got to our destination earlier than expected. Though we had the complete address of our Couchsurfing host, we didn't have any idea on how to get there. I gave the address to the taxi driver who approached us. He slightly bobbled his head (which seemed like a half-yes, half-heck-I-don't-know-but-come-with-me-anyway) and led us to his tuktuk. Because I doubted his bleary response, I asked if there's a public phone anywhere nearby. He offered his mobile.

I called Bakri our host, and let him talk to our driver for directions. After they hung up, our driver looked more confident and turned overly jolly. We weaved through rush hour traffic disregarding pedestrians and red lights for about twenty minutes and screeched to a halt in front of a 'checkpoint'. The guardhouse made us realize that we've just entered a residential village.

The driver redialed our host's number, perhaps to say that we're already there. In just five minutes a guy on a scooter arrived. It was a friend of Bakri's. He said he went to the train station to pick up two more Couchsurfers who will be staying at their house that night.

Our tuktuk followed the scooter to the house. We paid the driver 200 INR plus a 20 INR tip as we got off. When we entered the house, we were greeted by a bunch of people playing video games. Not one is Indian. I was disconcerted. Definitely not disappointed but it made me think that I must have missed a few info on our host's profile page. They're all Africans and they were speaking Arabic (I recognized so because I used to work in the Middle East). My first guess was that our hosts could be from Sudan... and eventually I proved myself correct.

"Great, I shouldn't have bought that shot glass as present." I thought.

Thank You, India Series:

Arrival Turned Fans Day
Thank You, India
How To Apply For An India Tourist Visa In The Philippines


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Ed said...
August 16, 2011 at 6:08 PM

galing. nahulaan agad. I should work in the ME! hahaha.
bobbling of the heads. hahaha. reminds me of Outsourced. sayang 1 season lang sila :(

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
August 16, 2011 at 6:12 PM

Chamba guess, Ed :) I just happen to know that the Sudanese speak Arabic because our hotel in UAE had heaps of guests from Sudan.

stray pusiket said...
August 17, 2011 at 12:11 AM

thank God we're from the Philippines that it's normal for us to see those kinds of buses abroad. feeling ko onting tapik, everything will fall na. LOL

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
August 17, 2011 at 9:27 AM

Lol. And the Philippines trained me to be very patient with insane traffic :)

Ian | Going Places said...
August 18, 2011 at 2:07 PM

pero mas much worse ang traffic jam sa India sabi... nakikita ko pa lang sa mga Amazing Race episodes mukhang real challenge ang commute travel sa India.

JeffZ said...
August 18, 2011 at 6:59 PM

the popular head bobble.. if i see it myself, baka matawa ako.. maaalala ko kasi ung scene sa outsourced.. hehe sometimes, may mabuti ring naidudulot ang traffic ng sa Pilipinas pagdating sa ibang bansa.. 24 hours on the road in 4 diff. countries? that's wow! :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
August 18, 2011 at 10:36 PM

Haha! I thought, I'd laugh too... But it feels different when you're there. It's awesome to do it cause you really feel like you and the locals are communicating well :)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
August 18, 2011 at 10:38 PM

Ian, traffic didn't seem too crazy when we were there. But then again we only went to Tamil Nadu so it's probably different in the other states.

Malditang "Kura"cha said...
August 19, 2011 at 11:24 AM

Ano ba yun habit na? hihihi! Viral ata sa kanila yung head bobble. hehe!

Patience indeed. lol! One of the things you should be thankful sa Pinas. At least hindi na "ONLY in the Philippines" ang transPOORtation na yan. =)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
August 19, 2011 at 11:29 AM

The head bobble is indeed infectious!

Chris said...
August 19, 2011 at 1:06 PM

Gotta love that bus! So brightly coloured!

joan / the backpack chronicles said...
August 20, 2011 at 1:17 AM

buti nakarating kayo ng ligtas sakay ng mukhang karag karag na bus.. hehehe..

sayang ang shot glass akin na lang!! =)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
August 20, 2011 at 8:09 AM

The bus' engine was so powerful, really like a bull on wheels. I gave our host the shot glass na rin even if he does not drink since he's Muslim. The shot glass has a drawing of a calesa :)

The Nomadic Pinoy said...
August 20, 2011 at 9:24 AM

Isn't that weird to couchsurf in India to find your hosts are actually from Sudan? Or I guess that's the reality as more people migrate to greener pastures (although I never think of India as a greener pasture - perhaps only their Holy Cows can say that hahahaha!)

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
August 20, 2011 at 9:42 AM

It did surprise us, Dennis. Our hosts actually moved to India for college education. One of them wanted to study in the Philippines but India's much closer to Sudan, hence cheaper flights :)

Pinoy Boy Journals said...
August 21, 2011 at 10:53 AM

naku buses buses... will be focusing on that and trains too. i haven't planned anything for my trip. i am not sure though, kung aabot ako tiruchirappalli.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
August 21, 2011 at 11:33 AM

Trichy's pretty far. Tamil Nadu is well networked via bus, some states aren't. We gotta revisit India to experience boarding their trains!

thepinaysolobackpacker said...
August 23, 2011 at 4:30 AM

scary nga ang bus at sa unahan pa kau naupo. nasakay din ako sa gnayang bus madals sa Pinas pero nung asa Malaysia ako xempre excited s aunahan din ako naupo w.c is actually not safe nga as you mentioned - possible collisions and all.

Pinay Travel Junkie said...
August 23, 2011 at 4:54 PM

Haha! Yeah Gael, ganda ng view sa unahan ng bus! Kakaexcite, you'll brush off the possibility of a collision :)

Anonymous said...
August 26, 2011 at 9:20 PM

that's a nice surprise.. kind foreigner hosts in a foreign country. :)

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